The Year of Return

“The Year of Return”, was an initiative set out by the Ghanaian government to encourage people all over the African diaspora to visit Ghana, to mark the 400 years since the first slaves of African descent were brought to Virginia. The African diaspora generally consists of Africans living outside of Africa and descendants of enslaved Africans that were abducted from Africa during the slave trade and sent to different parts of the world.

In 2018, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo started publicly laying the groundwork to make Ghana one of Africa’s leading tourism hubs, by inviting celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Idris Elba, Liam Payne, Jidenna to name a few, to attend the Full Circle Festival. Here he announced that Ghana would be opening its “arms even wider to welcome home our brothers and sisters in what will become a birthright journey home for the global African family.”

Naomi Campbell, her mother Valerie and President Nana Afuko-Addo
Image: @Naomi

“The Year of Return” already seems to have been a success for Ghana according to figures released by the Ghana Immigration Service. Americans arriving in Ghana increased by 26%, their highest ever rate between January and September 2019. UK visitors increased by 24%.

According to Business Inside, this has resulted in President Nana Afuko-Addo planning to make “The Year of Return” a permanent initiative. The Ghanaian government has already begun this process calling 2020 the year “Beyond the Return”.

However, “The Year of Return” was not just limited to Ghana. Some diasporans also opted to visit Lagos, Nigeria. It is important to note that Ghana being a more stable nation meant it was able to market itself as the place for diasporans to be instead of other African countries. Ghana was ranked as the 43rd safest country in the world by Safe Around.

West African countries becoming new tourist hotspots for young diasporans may be shocking to some, but not to me. The price of plane tickets has proven to be the biggest barrier preventing some families from visiting their countries of origin. The lowest price point for a family of four to travel from London to Lagos in July would be just over £3,000.

Cardi B performing in Lagos
Image: Faje Kashope

By December 2019 “The Year of Return” was in full swing, with many concerts taking place in both Accra and Lagos. Cardi B kicked off the wave of highly anticipated concerts by visiting both Ghana and Nigeria to perform. During her time in Lagos, she urged her Instagram followers to come and visit Nigeria for themselves. In addition to Cardi B, Accra and Lagos hosted performances throughout the rest of December from artists like Future, Koffee, Dave, Boyz II Men, Megan Thee Stallion, Burna Boy, WizKid and many more.

It will be interesting to see what Ghana intends to do to build on the success they experienced last year and whether other West African countries will launch similar initiatives to also boost their tourism numbers.

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